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Urban Water Systems In Transition

Bell, SJ; (2012) Urban Water Systems In Transition. Emergence: Complexity and Organization , 14 (1) 45 - 58.

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Abstract

Modern cities are dependent on vast infrastructure systems to deliver a constant supply of drinking water and sewerage systems for removing surface and waste water. This paper investigates urban water infrastructure as a complex system. It describes the emergence of existing systems in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as a response to public health crises. Existing systems are at a point of criticality as growth in demand for water outstrips local water resources. This represents a potential bifurcation point from which alternative structures and patterns of organisation could emerge over coming decades. One possible pathway for future urban water systems relies upon the development of new sources of water including desalination and recycling of waste water for potable supply. This pathway continues to expand the boundaries of urban water systems, increasing entropy outside the system while requiring higher energy input to maintain order within the system. An alternative pathway involves the emergence of distributed systems of water collection and reuse to meet non-potable demand, thereby relieving pressure on the existing potable water and sewerage systems. This could result in increasing complexity across the city as non-potable water systems emerge at household and neighbourhood scales. The paper concludes by outlining the potential for urban modelling techniques based on complexity to inform policy makers, planners, engineers and designers in steering urban water systems towards a more sustainable future.

Type: Article
Title: Urban Water Systems In Transition
Publisher version: hhttps://emergentpublications.com/ECO/issue_conten...
Language: English
Additional information: Special Issue: Complexity and Sustainability
UCL classification: UCL > School of BEAMS
UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1346070
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